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Israeli Apartheid | Introduction

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Pre-req  Introduction | Part I | Part 2 | Part 3 |  Part 4

The Israeli propaganda machine is in full swing this time of the year. Israel’s image as the ‘only liberal democracy in the Middle East’ continues to be tarnished as Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) and BDS (Boycotts, Divestments, Sanctions) grow as a grass roots movements on campuses across the globe. Israel’s positive image in the North American psyche is the one thing which has allowed it to continue its brutality against the Palestinians without any backlash from the general public. The fact that its image is slowly undergoing a seismic shift shakes Israel to the core.

Israel’s nervousness and isolation is best indicated by the attempts to counter this movement. It has organized massive public relation campaigns, initiated events such as Israel Peace Week and has sent out delegations on speaking tours all over the world. Condemnation of IAW pour in from right-wing politicians and media outlets continue to brand the event as a hate fest which is rooted in misinformation and anti-Semitism.

All this comes at a time when informed commentators agree that Israel implements a system of apartheid. A recent report by the United Nations concluded that Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories ‘exhibit features of colonialism and apartheid’. B’Tasleem, Israel’s leading human rights organization, published in its report Land Grab that Israel ‘has created a system of legally sanctioned separation based on discrimination that has, perhaps, no parallel any where in the world since the apartheid regime of South Africa’. The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa also concluded in its legal study that Israel is guilty of apartheid crimes.

Why use apartheid?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a multi-faceted one. At the core of it lies an illegal occupation coupled with innumerable human rights violations, war crimes, terrorism, ethnic cleansing, colonialism and apartheid. Solidarity activists of the past largely focused their struggle around ending the occupation, human rights violations and state-sponsored terrorism.

Focusing on the apartheid nature of the occupation represents a newer strategy in the movement, and perhaps the most effective one to date. This is a dimension of the conflict which was ignored largely in the past; partially because it is something which has developed overtime. It is the aspect of the conflict which affects Palestinians everyday.  Apartheid is a term which stirs strong emotions in the Western psyche; by exposing Israel as a perpetrator of this crime one has a much higher chance of changing public opinion towards the Zionist state. This has also allowed activists to structure their strategies in a similar fashion to the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980’s. The apartheid policies of South Africa ended shortly after US withdrew its support for the regime. By forcing our governments to change their unequivocal support of Israel, we have the greatest chance of aiding an end to the conflict.

Israeli Apartheid Week is a unique (and proud!) Canadian contribution to the Palestinian solidarity movement. It started off in 2005 at the University of Toronto by a group of dedicated student activists. It was shortly followed by the BDS Call (Boycotts, Divestments, Sanctions) made by 170 Palestinian civil societies. Through lectures, protests, concerts and film screenings, this week is dedicated to raising awareness about the atrocities being committed against the Palestinian people. It also focuses on measures that can be employed by average citizens to help end Israeli apartheid. The event is now organized on university campuses in over a 100 cities across the globe.

Success of the anti-apartheid movement for South Africa was rooted in educating the public about this inhumane system. Given the lack of knowledge about this issue amongst the masses and to emulate former movement, this series will seek to inform people about what apartheid is, why it applies to Israel and how we can help fight it.

Next Post: What is Apartheid?

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Waleed Ahmed writes on current affairs and politics for MuslimMatters. He focuses on Muslim minorities, human rights and the Middle-Eastern conflict. Based out of Montreal, he's currently pursuing a Ph.D. at McGill University in fundamental physics. Waleed also has a keen interest in studying Arabic and French. He spends his spare time reading, playing basketball and praying for Jon Stewart to run in the next presidential election.

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Avatar

    JPeditor

    March 30, 2012 at 1:10 AM

    a/ Muslims living in Israel have more freedom in Israel than IN ANY Arab “nation” on the planet.

    ESPECIALLY MUSLIM WOMEN.

    THERE IS NO APARTHEID IN ISRAEL.

    b/ 90% of muslims living in Israel have NO DESIRE to live under the rule of the so-called “palestinian” Authority.

    THERE IS NO APARTHEID IN ISRAEL.

    c/ The so-called “palestinian” Authority has already declared that NO JEWS WILL BE ALLOWED TO LIVE in so-called “palestine”.

    THERE IS THE APARTHEID, you intellectual midgets.

    Go ahead and delete, this, as you do not have the capacity, nor the facts nor the stones to argue it.

    So show us how cowardly you are, too afraid to let your big-time intellectual muslim and far left dhimmie audience read it.

    But everywhere you post the LIE OF ISRAELI APARTHEID,  the truth of the above FACTS will be plastered to make you the laughing stock of academia, and eventually of the Western world.

    THEN, you can go back live in YOUR apartheid cesspool.

    • Avatar

      Israelisaterroriststate

      March 30, 2012 at 3:13 PM

      I don’t find it surprising a jpost editor is spouting these retarded claims. Freedoms my ass. Go back to slaving for your Zionist masters you cretin. You know you’re lying and you are truly the scum of the earth.

    • Avatar

      Israelisaterroriststate

      March 30, 2012 at 3:16 PM

      By the way, do tell me where you got your sources(aka “false info”). It’s a shame you are no different than the holocaust perpetrators you cry about.

    • Avatar

      Shahriar Hussain

      March 31, 2012 at 7:17 PM

      Islam protects and free’s women infinitely more then your western standards ever will, so to say that Muslim women have no freedom in Islam is a big idiotic statement that would be said by someone who knows nothing about Islam.

      The tyrants who are in power in Muslim lands are hated by the general Muslim people, and they are tyrants who are backed by the West because they serve not the needs of Islam and Muslims, but the needs of Israel, the greatest transgressor of the world.

      Wake up and face the reality. Muslims haven’t occupied anybodies land nor transgressed against any people, nor have we oppressed anyone..
      Israel has, America has, Britain has.

      • Avatar

        Jp

        April 3, 2012 at 5:11 PM

        “hey are tyrants who are backed by the West because they serve not the needs of Islam and Muslims, but the needs of Israel, ”

        Mu-ha-ha-, more islamic paranoia….”my little pee-pee shrunk, its the JOOS fault.”

        1300 years, you invent NOTHING but envy. Just another example of why islam is “death” not 
        “peace”.

      • Avatar

        Lior

        September 19, 2012 at 12:54 AM

        So the Ottoman and Persian empires weren’t colonialist examples of Muslim faith?

    • Avatar

      Robbie

      December 7, 2012 at 12:16 PM

      To JP Editor

      I have to agree, your post is 100% accurate !!

      However, I would suggest trying to tone it down a little, because your views are valuable in these debates and we really don’t want you to be barred from posting.

      Many of these RADICAL EXTREMISTS just need to be educated.

      Greg Abdul, whether I agree totally with your views or not, I appreciate your interest in lasting peace within these lands.
      LIVE AND LET LIVE

  2. Pingback: On Land Day, Australians March in Solidarity with Palestinians « KADAITCHA

  3. Pingback: Israeli Apartheid is Worse Than Apartheid Practised by White South Africa « KADAITCHA

  4. Avatar

    GregAbdul

    April 1, 2012 at 11:11 PM

    Yes Israel is an apartheid state. But that means the Palestinians are a part of Israel and they belong to Israel and they are being denied their birthright as Israeli citizens. And no Palestinian Arab will live with those facts. Arabs want to have it both ways. You hate Israel and say you want it abolished. Now you say they are a state who denies rights to its Arab citizens. You can’t be an oppressed minority without belonging to the state that you claim denies you full rights. Israel’s obligation is to its citizens. So if the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza want full Israeli citizenship, then you can holler apartheid and the world will be with you. If all you want is to drive the Jews into the sea,’ and this is another sorry cloaked argument, please save everyone time. Your drive the Jews into the sea nonsense has caused over 50 years of suffering. The Jews are going nowhere. If you want to live in peace with Jews and Muslims living with full rights in one state, the world will be with you. If you keep this Arab purity nonsense up, the Jews will soon completely own the West Bank and Gaza anyway. The only question is will there be Arabs there willing to live with Jews in peace or will Lukid drive all the Arabs into the sea? Please my Muslim brothers, end the nonsense. The Jews are going nowhere. So fix your political aims on living with the Jews, or prepare for the eventual mass migration of all Arabs from what used to be called Palestine. I think that’s a pretty simple choice. Please let us be a people of logic and reason and not stupid politics.

    • Avatar

      WaleedAhmed

      April 2, 2012 at 4:17 AM

      It’s a bit presumptuous and extreme for you to suggest Greg, that we are calling here for expulsion of the Jews from Israel. It is as absurd as saying the the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980’s wanted the expulsion of white’s from SA.

      Israel is an apartheid state because it implements apartheid policies on the Palestinians. The end to this system could come through a two-state or one state solution…the latter of which is unlikely.

      Muslims and Jews living in peace is nothing new; in fact that has been the historical norm. It will happen again God willing.

      I encourage your to read the remainder of the series before jumping to conclusions about what is being called here.

      • Avatar

        GregAbdul

        April 2, 2012 at 7:30 AM

        as salaam alaikum,

        It is not presumptuous. It’s old clearly articulated and spelled out political dogma. It is an Arab dream to see the end of the State of Israel. That is why many do not recognize Israel. The reason for the Western insistence of the two state solution is that many Palestinians have no desire to live in and share a country with Jewish people. Brother if we are all honest, this decades of debate takes only two seconds. There is ONE land. There are two peoples. Jews and Muslims living in peace has happened in the past. Today, in Israel, it is clearly not happening. This thing where we deny obvious realities works against oppressed Muslims. The Jews are not going anywhere. So if we want peace and prosperity for the Palestinians, the goal has to be full Israeli citizenship and not a separate state. Then your cries of apartheid are real. Right now the Palestinians are nothing more than Arab separatists, refusing to move off to Arab lands, in the hope that one day they can drive off the Jews. The hardliners on the Jewish side think exactly the same way. What my Muslim brothers and sisters need to realize is that the Jewish hardliners have the advantage, so if there is a real separation at this point, it is the Palestinians who will be left holding a bag of nothing. There is no second state to be had. So either the Arabs of the region have to move to Jordan and Egypt if they are really stuck so much on pure Arab blood, or they have to truly join modern integrationists and begin to demand Israeli citizenship. I will read your series brother. Al hamdulillah for Muslims Matters. But this is not a new issue. How many hundreds of thousands of Jews live in the West Bank? I am no Zionist. I know they take unfairly. The question is how to stop them. The answer does not lie in separatism. In South Africa, no one demanded the whites leave. So if you are going to copy the name of the freedom struggle of Africans, then see that they never sought to drive the whites away and even more importantly, set up reconciliation as a central goal of the new democratic state once apartheid was abolished. Are the Palestinians interested in a reconciliatory one-state-for-all existence in the Middle East? If not, it will be the Arabs who end up leaving. The choices here are old and simple and the problem is all the cloaked and fake language. May Allah guide us to be open and give us guidance.

        • Avatar

          N Iqbal

          May 22, 2013 at 4:51 AM

          Brother.

          When the crusaders occupied Jerusalem for 100 years there were Muslims like you who came out with various reasons why the occupation could not be reversed. Then Allah (SWT) blessed the Ummah with Salahudeen Ayubi (RH) who achieve what Muslims like you thought was impossible but Muslims of belief never doubted.

          Your belief in Allah is weak or you would never think the things you have said let alone propagate them in them writing.

          I suggest you do sincere taubah and learn what Allah (SWT) says on this matter and stop following your own desires. May Allah (SWT) guide you.

          The only Islamic solution for Palestine is for it to be liberated under the leadership of a sincere Khalif. The responsibility on our necks is to work for the re-establishment of the Khilafah based on the method of RasulAllah (SAW). Any other solution is a false solution which deserves humiliation in this life and severe accountability in the Hereafter.

      • Avatar

        Jp

        April 3, 2012 at 5:13 PM

        “It’s a bit presumptuous and extreme for you to suggest Greg, that we are calling here for expulsion of the Jews from Israel. ”

        Are you stupid or naive?

        WHH do you think arafats’ keffiyeh crease AND the PA maps are all about:

        “From the Jordan to the Sea, koranustine Will be Jew-Free!”

  5. Avatar

    concernedstudent

    April 23, 2012 at 11:08 PM

    Hi, I’m a rising academic trying to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I have heard of claims, like the one on this site, that Israel is considered an Apartheid state. I don’t see how this is possible, as, after doing extensive research, I have discovered that Israel provides full equal rights to its Arab citizens. How could it be that an Apartheid nation would condone an Arab-Israeli Supreme Court judge to punish a Jewish Israeli PRESIDENT of Israel. Israel has indicated, as far as I’m concerned, that it is surely not an Apartheid country.

    On the contrary, I have heard the claim that in the West Bank, the Arabs there are not given equal rights; however, they are not citizens of the state of Israel. Many of these supposed refugees seek to undermine Israel in every respect, so how could Israel attempt to embrace them?

    I really do not understand these claims of Apartheid, but I would like to hear an enlightening perspective. Can someone please inform me further on this issue? Thanks.

    • Avatar

      WaleedAhmed

      April 27, 2012 at 1:42 AM

      Keep reading the series. You will be able to look past the propaganda that is being fed to us.

    • Avatar

      Robbie

      December 7, 2012 at 12:22 PM

      To Concerned Student

      You have obviously studied well !!!
      Your views are 100% accurate and we need your views to be heard on web sites like this.

      Please keep up the posts as many of the writers on this site(not all) only want the destruction of Israel and the Jews.

  6. Avatar

    Special K

    May 1, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    Israel will be viewed historically as
    1. An oasis of democracy in a despotic desert.
    2. An island of modernity in a medieval sea.
    3. etc.

  7. Pingback: Why Israel is an Apartheid State | Introduction « BloomingPeaches – Sit. Think. Imagine

  8. Pingback: Israel and Apartheid | Part 1 - MuslimMatters.org

  9. Avatar

    Lior

    September 19, 2012 at 12:52 AM

    All this article states as proof is a UN report stating the recent settlements are unjustified and nothing about Israeli “apartheid.” Nice try guys….If Israel is truly apartheid, why have 63 Arab Israelis been elected in parliament? Why are Arab Israelis granted the same rights as any other Israeli???

  10. Pingback: Israel and Apartheid | Part 2 « BloomingPeaches – Sit. Think. Imagine

  11. Pingback: Israel and Apartheid | Part 2 - MuslimMatters.org

  12. Avatar

    Robbie

    January 2, 2013 at 7:05 AM

    Haha !!

    Sorry to laugh on your website, let me explain!!

    Over the last couple of months i have been reading the debates and opinions on MM, a lot of which has been based on the Israel/Gaza conflict,Apartheid Israel and who started the last round of trouble in Gaza.

    I have to say and this is not aimed at ALL readers/writers, I was flabbergasted at the attitude of some of your patrons, some of whom live in the western world.

    However my reason for laughing is quite simple:
    On every ANTI ISRAEL / JEWISH TOPIC, the right wing fanatical nutcases, have been silenced by writers posting accurate facts about each situation!!

    I mean if you read above from the intellectual who calls himself ISRAELITERRORISTSTATE, it is a delight to see these fools are being given accurate lessons and have no grounds to reply!!

    Keep up the good work guys, you know who you are

    LIVE AND LET LIVE

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Civil Rights

Podcast: The Unfinished Business of Martin Luther King | Imam Zaid Shakir

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CAA – NRC Row: Why There Is More To It Than An Attack On Secular Ethos

indian economy caa
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‘Indian Muslims have nothing to fear. No one knows what CAA/NRC is all about. They are simply protesting because they are misled’, thus proclaimed a former classmate of mine who himself left India for brighter prospects during PM Narendra Modi’s regime but continues to believe in his promise of ‘acche din’ (good days).

Today the whole of India is divided over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which is to be followed by the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Thousands of students from India’s premier institutions like Jamia Milia Islamia, Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi University, IITs and IIMs are thronging the streets to protest against the bigoted law.

The ripple effect has even reached top educational institutions across the world including Harvard, Oxford, Yale and MIT. From lawyers to celebrities to academicians, people across the world, belonging to different religions are raising their dissent against the law which is deemed to be against the secular fabric of the Indian Constitution.

What is this law all about?

The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) provides an accelerated path to Indian citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhists, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities from three countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is an official record of all those who are legal Indian citizens. So far, such a database has only been created for the northeastern state of Assam which has been struggling with the issue of illegal immigration for a long time. In Assam 1.9 million people were effectively rendered stateless after NRC and were put into detention centers. Out of these 1.9 million, around 0.6 million are Muslim.

On November 20, Home Minister Amit Shah declared during a parliamentary session that the register would be extended to the entire country.

Why the uproar?

At first glance the CAA seems to be a harmless law, which the government claims was made to help those who are facing religious persecution. However, the question arises why only those suffering religious persecution? Millions of people are suffering persecution in the name of race, region or language in India’s neighboring countries.

Even if we talk about just religious persecution, why does the law only accommodate those from three neighboring countries? Rohingyas are suffering brutal persecution in Myanmar. Christians are suffering in Sri Lanka. Tibetans have been persecuted because of their beliefs.

Many people opine that the CAA is not problematic in itself. It becomes problematic when it’s seen in conjunction with NRC. When NRC is implemented, millions of people will be declared illegal due to lack of documents in a country where the masses live in villages and documentation is a complicated bureaucratic process with a high error rate. According Professor Shruti Rajagopalan, the State Of Aadhaar Report 2017-18 by IDinsight, covering 2,947 households, found that 8.8% of Aadhaar holders reported errors in their name, age, address or other information in their Aadhaar letter (Aadhaar is the identity number issued to Indian residents). In the NRC, a spelling mistake can deprive one of citizenship and 8.8% affects over 120 million people.

They will be rendered stateless and sent to detention centers with inhumane conditions. Out of these ‘illegals’, everyone but Muslims can seek accelerated citizenship under CAA.

The fact is that even if we view CAA alone, the very act of offering citizenship on the basis of religion goes against the fundamentals of secularism and equality as mentioned in the Indian constitution.

UN Human Rights chief, Michelle Bachelet has termed the CAA as “fundamentally discriminatory”.

In this context, it’s also relevant to understand the revolt that is happening in the north eastern state of Assam. While the rest of India is against CAA and NRC for exclusion of Muslims, the people of Assam are protesting against the inclusion of 1.3 million undocumented Non-Muslims, as identified in the NCR. According to them, if these foreigners are granted citizenship under CAA, they pose a threat to the language and culture of Assam.

Police brutality against protesters

Student fraternity across the world was shocked when students of Jamia Milia Islamia who were peacefully protesting against the CAA were brutally attacked by police forces. Police accused students of destroying public property and fired tear gas shells, beat them up mercilessly and even open fired at them. They barged into the library, mosque and even the women’s hostels without authorization.

Video footage shot by students and reviewed by Reuters show students, including women, hiding beneath desks in the library, cowering in restrooms, jumping over broken furniture in an attempt to flee. It was later verified that none of the students had anything to do with some of the buses that were set ablaze outside the campus.

Reports of even more horrific police brutality surfaced from Aligarh Muslim University. A student’s hand had to be amputated after a tear gas shell hit him and exploded. Hundreds of students were severely injured.

Section 144 of the Criminal Code which prohibits any gathering of 5 or more people has been imposed across the entire state of UP. Internet has been shut down in several parts.

Videos showing police destroying properties of innocent Muslims in UP have surfaced which the ‘Godi media’, a term coined for PM Modi’s lapdog media, refuses to acknowledge. Innocent youth are being dragged out of their homes and their properties are being seized on the accusation of destruction of public property. Death toll has crossed 22. Thousands are in custody.

It’s not surprising that Narendra Modi is being compared to Adolf Hitler.

India’s secular ethos

Religion based politics is nothing new in India, the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi issue and Gujarat riots being two of the most glaring examples.

However, in day to day life ‘Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isai, Aapas mein sab bhai bhai’ (Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians are all brothers) has not just been a slogan but a way of life.

Muslims in India have held prominent positions in every sphere of life, be it arts, literature, sports or leadership and have been admired by Hindus and Muslims alike.

The current BJP government aims to change all of that with its RSS-inspired fascist ideology of Hindutva – Hindu nationalism andHindu rashtra’ (nation).

India’s faltering economy and dejected youth

One of the heartening aspects of the CAA/NRC uprising is that it is not being seen as just a Muslim struggle. It is rightly being seen as a struggle to uphold the secular ethos of the Constitution of India. However, there is more to this struggle which is being led by the youth of the country.

Underlying the CAA-NRC struggles is the country’s deep disappointment with PM Modi’s lofty promises of ‘acche din’ (good days) which gave the country a new hope . Among other things he promised to make India an economic superpower. Today the nation’s economy is in doldrums which has led to frustration and dejection in the youth.

IMF’s last forecast for India was 6.1% growth in 2019. This has slumped to 4.9%. Unemployment is at a 45-year high and industrial growth rate is negative.

One of the major reasons for the economic slowdown has been the government’s radical decision of demonetization in 2016 which sent the entire country in a turmoil and failed to achieve any of its stated objectives. Small businesses took a further hit with the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

At a time when the government’s primary concern should have been the faltering economy, the government diverted the country’s attention to the Babri Masjid -Ram Janmabhoomi issue. As soon as that ended it announced the CAA and NRC, continuing its propaganda of Hindu nationalism as opposed to real issues faced by the nation.

At this critical junction the economy can be expected to take a further hit by the cost of the implementation of the CAA and NRC exercise.By conservative estimates, nationwide NRC will cost Indians a whopping 500 billion rupees in admin expenses alone. Add to it the massive cost of building and maintaining detention centers across the country and the nation looks set for an economic and logistical nightmare.

Today the educated youth of the country is voicing its frustration at the price the country has been paying due to the government’s fascist ideologies. They no longer want the world to know India for its age old mandir-masjid disputes, mob lynchings, communal riots, human rights violations, poverty or illiteracy.

The current uprising is not just against one particular law.The people, especially the youth of India are protesting for their rights to work together as one nation to take the country towards being an exemplary democracy and an economic superpower.

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#Current Affairs

What Indian Students Are Saying about the CAA NRC Project – And Its Implementation

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The Modi government has been trying to paint the Citizenship Amendment Bill (now Citizenship Amendment Act- CAA) as a humanitarian gesture for religious minorities from three select countries, and Home Minister Amit Shah had claimed in Parliament that no Muslim Indian needs to fear the CAB or the proposed National Register of Citizens, before the Bill had received the President’s nod to become a law on December 12.

But the students I spoke with are far from convinced, especially after the horrific incidents that unfolded at the Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi and the Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh.

 

Mohammad Amir, a former management student at AMU fears that if the Citizenship Act remains a law, it could set a precedent for religious bias in any future policy or legislation.

“Whether AMU or Jamia, protestors are viewing the CAA through the lens of the National Register of Citizens. There is a prevailing threat that our citizenship will be snatched away just because we follow a certain religion,” said Amir.

Iqra Raza, a student of literature at St Stephen’s College believes that Muslims have already become a target. Raza says she was attacked by a few ABVP goons on her way back from an anti-CAA protest in the North Campus of Delhi University.

“I was targeted for my hijab, cornered and beaten up. I was outnumbered seven to one and there was nothing I could have done. This was within 100 metres of police deployment, and even the university guards simply looked on as I cried and shouted for help,” she recalls, adding that the incident has traumatised her severely.

Raza shared that a second-year DU undergraduate wearing a hijab was also attacked on the very same day. Just days before, Prime Minister Modi while campaigning made a very obvious dog whistle remark targeting Muslims, saying that those creating violence could be identified “by what they were wearing”.

The CAA discriminates by granting expedited citizenship on the basis of religion, and by leaving out one religion in the list of other six, its true intent may indeed be to perpetuate the exclusion of Muslims from the citizenry.

Many of those I spoke to pointed out that the CAA does not mention the word “persecuted” or “persecution” anywhere in its text. This could mean that Shah’s talk of giving new hope to those allegedly facing religious persecution is just an eyewash.

“Due to the new CAA wording, a Muslim, someone who was previously considered a citizen of India could end up as a non-citizen,” says Hena Zuberi, editor-in-chief of MuslimMatters.org and head of the Washington DC office of the human rights organisation, Justice for All.

“While the Modi government claims that this is not the intent of the Act, the loophole is visibly large, and there is ample reason to believe that the path it provides for re-citizenship was the reason it was passed by Parliament,” Zuberi further said.

After huge protests in the northeast states by people opposing the new law for separate reasons, a number of students at universities elsewhere in India came out in protest, demanding that the government withdraw the Act completely.

Students at Jamia Millia Islamia were among the first to raise their voice. When they organised a protest march from their campus to Parliament House on December 13, they were stopped by police barricades. 

According to the testimony of a student who wishes to remain anonymous, the police threatened them saying that they should protest quietly in their homes, for the streets do not belong to them to do such things.

“They first started throwing mud or chappals or bottles at us that they had picked up from the road, and then they started pelting stones,” the student recounts. Those who tried to resist the police and break through the barricades were detained. The police also fired teargas shells that day, injuring about 30-40 people, according to his testimony.

Again on December 15, when students were protesting peacefully on the Jamia campus lawns, the police opened fire according to witnesses and assaulted any student they came across, regardless of whether or not they were a part of the protest.

“They went completely berserk once they broke the gates and came inside the campus,” says Alhayyat Pasha, a journalism student at Jamia, sharing what he described as one of the most terrible experiences of his life.

“I was just studying by myself in the library reading hall when the police started coming in numbers. I don’t think I have ever been so scared, I was just constantly shaking,” he said.

While the students took shelter in the library and bolted the doors, the police constantly fired inside and threw teargas shells. This shattered the glasses on the doors and windows, through which the students managed to escape, although some were dragged and beaten up, with their phones being taken away.

“I was lucky enough to have escaped, as I went straight to the gates before the police started rounding up the others,” says Pasha. 

A research scholar in sociology at Jamia said on condition of anonymity that what the Delhi Police did was a complete violation of human rights, and illegal also because they are not allowed to enter the campus without permission, nor without female cops being present.

An Assamese by birth, she says she was deeply affected by the CAA, although the NRC is acceptable to her. She explains that most people in Assam are against the CAA for reasons different from the exclusion of Muslims as is the case elsewhere in the country. 

“The NRC, which could have brought an end to the problem of illegal immigrants and border issues plaguing the state for long, will be completely nullified if the CAA comes into action,” she said.

The researcher confessed that she wasn’t very involved in the protests led by Jamia students in any way because she did not agree with their reasons. 

“But then the course of horrific incidents that took place left a spine chilling disturbance, and I was forced to change my mind”, she alleged.

But Shamik Banerjee, a Master’s student of media governance, feels that condemning the police assault will not make any difference, and similar incidents are very likely to occur in the future.

“Delhi Police has already set a precedent when it comes to dealing with student protests, and since this is a university with a Muslim name we don’t really expect anything better from them,” Banerjee said. He added that he is an upper-caste Hindu who was never made conscious of his religion as a student in a Muslim-majority campus space in all the time he has been there.

indian students

A protest at the Aligarh Muslim University against the Citizenship Amendment Act on December 13, 2019.. | Photo Credit: Manoj Aligadhi

 

Meanwhile, similar horrors were unfolding at the Aligarh Muslim University as well. It began with a mass hunger strike against the CAA and NRC on December 12, following the passage of the Bill. On 13th, more students joined in and gathered at the Bab-e-Syed masjid to protest against the police brutality in Jamia. The police then filed an FIR against 700 students for allegedly violating Section 144, although students later claimed that Section 144 hadn’t been imposed in the area at the time. 

The government deployed the Rapid Action Force at the university entrance gates and in the early hours of dawn suspended the internet in the area.

“It was like any other normal day, until we received a message that the gate has been broken and students are being choked with teargas” said a student who wished to remain anonymous. “Aligarh had become a battleground. People were being thrashed inside the campus, teargas and stun grenades were being thrown at the students, and bikes were being smashed.”

The student said that the Rapid Action Force entered the campus and set Room 46 of the Morrison Court on fire. The students were locked inside their own residential halls and washrooms.

A law student at AMU stated that that it takes five years of blood and sweat to complete a law degree, understand a single section or amendments, and a whole lifetime to fight for and practise the same. 

“A law that makes students evacuate prestigious institutions whose admission tests take months of preparation to crack cannot be implemented or accepted,” she said, adding that she still harbours a hope that the Supreme Court will scrap the Act.

“This is exactly what the government wants, and it is extremely saddening,” said Zeeshan Abdullah Shaikh, a student of medicine at AMU. “They will not let us study, and by making us evacuate our hostels they’re already making us feel like refugees running for our lives.”

“The way they came at us, in both Jamia and Aligarh, it was like they had no regard for our lives, neither as students nor as Muslims,” another student alleged. “There have been student protests and demonstrations in other universities a lot of times, but never has there been open firing and assault to this degree. It’s clear that our Muslim names are a marker.”

Michael Kugelman is the Deputy Director of the Asia Program (specialising in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India and their relations with the US) at the Wilson Center in DC, which is a non-partisan policy forum that tackles global issues through independent research and open dialogue. According to him, universities in many places and not just in India can be a hotbed of activism as it encourages different and individualistic thoughts. 

This is also why universities with large Muslim student populations will be particularly concerning to the government, based on the assumption that those students would be particularly inclined to protest and oppose the law. They would try to suppress any opposition in such cases, even if they have been largely non-violent”, he said over a short interview.

However, according to Kugelman, the Indian Muslims do happen to have a surprising ally in the cause after all: the far-right Indian Hindus that oppose the citizenship law. 

He believes as the BJP does not want to alienate Indian Hindus, it could very well prove to be completely adverse to their exclusionary policy if they’re seen protesting with the Indian Muslims on a large scale.

“That show of unity could just be the very powerful thing that unsettles the ruling party in a big way”, he said. 

CAA Protest

Speaking from the Justice for All office in Washington, DC, Zuberi also concurred with this. She said that the government wants the Muslim youth to be crushed so that no resistance takes root, and in this process, to intimidate non-Muslim youth in the hope that they will eventually drop out of the protests, thinking it doesn’t affect them in any way.

Zuberi also mentioned her fear that if students from other religious communities were to stop taking part in the protests, Muslim students might be detained indefinitely under laws like the anti-sedition law – which governments in India have often used to detain or jail people opposed to their policies. 

Mohammad Assaduzzaman, who is currently pursuing a masters in material chemistry and mineralogy at the University of Bremen, said he would feel very scared to return to India in light of all that is happening, although he added that the huge number of non-Muslims taking part in the protests has given him a lot of hope.

Yet he too expressed a similar fear: what might happen if people from other religions stop lending support to the community after a point?

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